I remember talking presidential politics with a cousin at a family member’s 90th birthday party in 2016 in Buffalo, N.Y. The cousin didn’t like either Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
I’m remembering that because of political analyst Stuart
Rothenberg’s Inside Elections column last week.
Essentially, Rothenberg argues people who voted for third-party candidates like Green Jill Stein (1.5 million votes) and Libertarian Gary Johnson (4.5 million votes) cost Clinton the election. About 7.8 million people voted for someone other than Trump, a Republican, and Clinton, a Democrat.
Overall, Trump and Clinton received only 94.27% of the popular vote.
That wasn’t true in the three previous elections with the Democratic and Republican candidates receiving a combined 99% in 2004, 98.6% in 2008 and 98.3% in 2012.
Rothenberg points out the same thing happened Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two states that traditionally voted for Democrats for president, but voted for Trump. Democrats see winning both plus recapturing Michigan as key to electing one of their own in 2020.
Let’s just look at Pennsylvania. I confirmed Rothenberg’s numbers and took things a step further.
Clearly, lots of Pennsylvania voters didn’t like Clinton or Trump. President Trump won the state by 44,292 votes — the first Republican to win here since George H.W. Bush in 1988 — but more than 218,228 people, or 3.57%, voted for someone other than him or Clinton.
In 2012, only 71,332 people, or 1.24%, voted for someone other than President Barack Obama, a Democrat, or Mitt Romney, a Republican. Obama won by 309,840.
In 2008, only 62,889, or 1.05%, voted for someone other than Obama or Sen. John McCain, a Republican. Obama won by 620,478, the most one-sided Pennsylvania victory by any presidential candidate in three decades.
In 2004, only 33,822, or .59%, voted for someone other than John Kerry, a Democrat, and President George W. Bush, a Republican. Kerry won by 144,248 votes.
The last time we had anything approaching 2016 for a third-party vote was 2000 when the Greens nominated Ralph Nader. That’s the election that Democrats say Nader cost them victory by siphoning off votes from Vice President Al Gore in Florida.
In Pennsylvania, 145,091, or 2.95%, voted for someone other than Gore or George W. Bush. Gore won by 204,840 votes anyway. I always remind anyone who says Nader voters cost Gore the election that all Gore had to do was win his home state, Tennessee, and he would have won election. He didn’t. Amazing, considering his family’s roots there.
If you read between the numbers, you can see Americans’ growing dissatisfaction with whoever was in Washington from 2004 onward. That’s why you see increasing percentages of people voting for third parties.
That mirrors the increasing percentage of people registered to vote as something other than Democrats or Republicans.
Gonzalez argues the third-party voters are unlikely to back Trump and Democrats have an opportunity to woo them back. I agree Democrats can win them back, but believing they’re unlikely to seriously consider Trump in these economic good times is a mistake.